Information about my work as a Labour Councillor for East Finchley in the London Borough of Barnet

Friday, 29 March 2013

Travel disruption

Easter always provides a few travel headaches, so if you plan on travelling over the next few days don;t forget to check national rail here or transport for London here.

Dog Mess

A number of residents have reported the poor state of pavements around Long Lane, Church Lane and East End Road due to dog fouling. I have reported it to the Council and am aware of the problem, as are my colleagues. We will be talking to officers about what can be done to encourage some responsibility amongs some dog owners. Anyone who is a regular user of the Walks will frequently be disgusted by the state of them.

100 sign Post Office petition

It still isn't too late to sign my petition to keep open the East Finchley Post Office and not re-franchise or move it by signing here.

So far over 100 residents and shop owners have signed the petition, and I hope many more will support this important camapign. Post offices are the heart of a local community, and they attract significant footfall for neighbouring shops.

One of the most fascinating things about getting people to sign this petition has been the number of people who said they took away the one on Ballards Lane. In fact that one has been replaced by one on Regents Park Road, but, thus demonstrating my point, no one knew!

Happy Easter

Wishing all those celebrating, a happy and restful Easter.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Road Safety on East End Road

Many of you will know I have concerns about road safety on East End Road near the station end. The winding road does not seem to discourage drivers to slow, and is hazardous to pedestrians, so I have forwarded a request to look at safety to officers. If you have any views let me know at the usual place.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

One Barnet at the High Court

I went to the first day of the Judicial Review of the One Barnet Projects.

Not being a Lawyer, I am not sure about how much I can describe of the case so far. I will say though that I thought Maria Nash's legal team have done a lot of research and a very good job. I think they have demonstrated, as I and other Labour colleagues have done, that there was no real consultation. No policy at residents forums, nothing at the disgraceful leader listens, no proper questions in the residents perception survey, or the panels.

On the formal scrutiny process, we were given 1 week to read the papers, and only 3 hours to read the 2,500 page contract, which the leader of the Council told us was 8,000 pages, before the PDS meeting. Cabinet nodded it through with a series of anodyne and pointless questions. they were clearly just going through the motions and had no real alternative.

I look forward to the Council defence, but if it's more about the Leader Listens, I may not be able to contain myself. Those were a disgraceful joke at taxpayers expenses, that the leader, who happened to be the Tory candidate in Finchley, and the Depuy Leader, who happened to be the Tory candidate in Hendon, had a series of public consultations in key polling districts in those seats. It is a disgrace they were ever allowed. I'm livid at the suggestion these would be considered consultation for a process that had yet to mutate from the monster they had started to create to the current beast.

You can never tell how a case has gone until you have heard the judge's reaction to both sides. In the Friern Barnet Library case, I thought we were doing ok at first because the judge was scathing of the Council, but was very tough on us too (though far politer). Speaking of the occupiers, they happened to be defending themselves in a case in Arnos Grove, so it was by remarkable coincidence that we were both in court on the same day.

Foodbank in Barnet

I recieved the following communication. It's a sad demonstration of Cameron's Britain.

"Dear Councillor
There has been much publicity in the national media over the last two years about the need in Britain for foodbanks to provide support to families in crisis.  A group of people from various churches in New and High Barnet responded to this need by opening the Chipping Barnet  foodbank in the Salvation Army premises in Albert Road, New Barnet in November, 2012.  This foodbank was set up under the umbrella of the Trussell Trust. 
Since the foodbank opened we have fed a total of 180 people.  The clients have come from all areas of the borough but the majority were from Underhill, Colindale and East Barnet Wards.  At present only two departments of the Council hold vouchers; the Children’s Safeguarding Service and the Social Care Division Children’s services."

Some additional information was provided too.

"There are many reasons for a family to find itself with no food to eat – benefit delays, sudden unemployment or severe illnesses are but a few examples.  Chipping Barnet foodbank was set up in November last year to help those families that find themselves in sudden crisis.
The foodbank is part of the Trussell Trust, an organisation that pioneered foodbanks in this country.  They have provided us with resources to facilitate the set up and operation of the foodbank and will continue to support us in the future.
Situated in the Salvation Army premises in Albert Road, New Barnet, we have fed a total of 180 people (including children) in the area since November.. 
The foodbank is currently open from 10 am – 12 noon on Saturdays and will be open from 12 noon – 2 pm on Tuesdays from the 9th April.  When a client comes into the foodbank, they can sit down and have a cup of coffee or tea and a chat with a volunteer, if they wish, while their parcel is being made up.  We can also provide leaflets and information about charities and organisations that may be able to give help and guidance to people in difficult circumstances
Clients must present a voucher for a parcel that has been issued by a frontline professional (eg: social worker, doctor, community worker) who knows them and is familiar with their family circumstances.  Vouchers have been issued to 30 different agencies so far,  including the Children’s Services of Barnet Council, the Job Centre and various churches and doctor’s surgeries. The vouchers are numbered and must be signed by the professional.  A record of signatories is kept in the foodbank for referral and vouchers are checked before food parcels are made up.  This system allows the foodbank to help people in genuine need.  Clients may only have 3 vouchers throughout a year. 
All the food that is given out is non-perishable and is well within the sell-by date on the packaging.  Food is donated through churches, schools and from individuals.  Parcels are made up of a variety of foods, with the emphasis on a simple, staple diet.  The size of the parcel is dependent on the size of the family in need."

New Playground for the Grange

Barnet Homes as very kindly planning to repair and upgrade the corner of the Grange estate (Next to King Street) and provide a small childrens play area. It is to be in memory of the last Horace White, who was a resident of the Grange.

This is a touching tribute, entirely the initiative of staff at Barnet Homes, many of whom knew Horace very well, and attended his funeral last year.

It is also an additional and much needed play area for children!

Monday, 18 March 2013

Battle of the Bands

Saturday afternoon was an odd one for your musically challenged Councillor. I was asked to hep the festival committee judge the acts who will play at this summers fesitval, on 23rd June.

I have no taste in music whatsoever, and as far as I am concerned, the 1812 overture is the nearest I get to popular music. Why I was asked to judge is a mystery unbeknowest to me. Perhaps it was our legendary East Finchley humour?

In any case, I was joined by other committee members, who thankfully posess the personality I am sadly lacking. I am pleased to say the acts we heard were all very good, and I think the lineup will be popular. There is some good variety, so if you don't come and see them then you'll be missing out, and could get very sad.

I was also fasting on the day, which made the Indian food unbearable to tolerate seeing.

Question Time at Middlesex Uni

Last Thursday I was asked to sit on a panel for a Question Time session arranged by the local Police. I was joined by representatives from Victims support groups, neighbourhood watch, the Borough Commander, Mr Usher, a Criminologist from Middx Uni and the President of the Uni students union.

They were all very impressive people and the discussion was good. It wasn't a political debate, but a practical one, with issues such as gang culture, sexual harrassment, neighbourhood policing, intervention and whether police should be allowed to strike.

I was very impressed by the president of the student union, who was very progressive, but also very responsible, and didn't play for the applause. We were stewarded by the police cadets, who, by way of tanks I took on a tour of the Town Hall, which I hoped they enjoyed. With us also was a small group from Hendon School who have written to Councillors to ask them to endorce their safe havens paln, which aims to make all public buildings and some shops safe havens, where young people who feel threatened can go and get directions or support. I support them and will be raising the issue.

Stanley Fields Meeting at Holy Trinity School

I attended the meeting of the Save Stanley Road Playing Fields group last Wednesday at the Holy Trinity School.

I was glad that there was a lot of strong support for the fields. I tink there has been some confusion about the best way of showing that, but there is now greater clarity.

The Archer Academy have bought the fields and will be hosing the junior years there (when built) as well as investing in the ground to provide sports facilities, that will be available to the public. Whilst I can't comment on the plans themselves, as a member of the planning committee, I can support the general principals. "I like the idea of using a Tory policy to make a school any good socialist would like to send their kids to!" as one resident told me!

Many also believe the school provides the best future for the fields, because we will get the much needed funding to create the sports facilities, and have an organisation which will maintain them for the long term future. It's also worth noting the backers and sponsors of the Archer Academy are locals, with strong support for the fields. Sport East Finchley say they would not be involved if they didn't feel the school would retain the fields for community use outside school hours, and they are busy writing the covenant that says so, as well as it being a condition of the sale of the land in the first place.

As I say, I won't comment on any aspect of a planning application that may be considered on the planning committee, but I am happy to state my opinions on two important issues for my ward. I also believe that Sport East Finchley will be dedicated to ensuring that the School stick to the agreements, if they were ever minded to demur.

One interesting aspect of the discussion was the angry reaction to the Archer newspaper for East Finchley. Their previous front page has been interpreted as an attack on the school, and it is rather odd they claimed it was hot off the press when they printed it, given it was in the Council papers printed 10 days before, and the Archer Academy say they sent a load of information beforehand as well. They seem to have incurred the wrath of many for their reporting, and the next edition will be interesting. I have to say, I find it frustrating when they only mention you in passing on their article about the closure of the Post Office, and don't carry a link to my petition.

Success on dropped kerbs for Baronsmere Road!

I am glad to hear from the Council that they are looking to add my request for dropped kerbs along Baronsmere Road to their works schedule for 2013/14!

I am glad to hear this, there need to be dropped kerbs all the way along Baronsmere Road, from the High Road to Southern Road, at the junctions with Ingram Road, Park Hall Road and Summerlee Avenue.

There is a school and two local doctors surgeries nearby, so I feel it is very appropriate.

Always nice to get a win!

Big Local- £1 Million for East Finchley

I attended the inaugural meeting of the Grange Big local project last week at Boydens Pantry on Church Lane. It was a good discussion, and the aim of the funding is clear to us now. The £1 million the area has been granted is to fund projects ofver 10 years, but not on areas where other bodies have a statutory obligation to fund the work. The biggest cause for concern was a lack of youth provision. With the Old Barn out of commission, it isn't hard to see why young people feel disengaged and disenfranchised. We are looking at ways the funding can provide new services for young people, and perhaps even new facilities. The community centre on red lion hill is to be turned into a private nursery, which is not likely to be used by residents of the Grange estate, so we could look to provide somewhere else if we can't re-engage the Old Barn. another possibility is the Newstead for smaller children.

We are also keen to ensure services and facilities for older residents, as well as the 30-55 demographic, who tend not to use many local services.

The next meeting will be 6.30 PM Wednesday 10th April at Boydens Pantry on Church Lane, if you would like to contribute ideas.

One Barnet Judicial Review

You can come and view the proceedings of the One Barnet Judicial review on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the Royal Courts of Justice, on the Strand. The hearings are due to start at 10 AM.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Community Focus

I am sad to hear that the Arts Depot have asked the excellent Community Focus to leave thier premises so they can have more space for other ventures. I understand this request comes from a cut in the Council grant, and the need to balance the books. Community Focus do a lot of excellent work, and I know my colleague Cllr Anne Hutton is working with Community Focus to find a resolution. If there isn't the possibility of accommodating them in the Arts Depot, I hope the service will not be lost, and perhaps can be reconstituted at another location. Will let you know more.

Hornsea Pensioner Action Group

Just to give you notice of the Hornsea Pension Action Group (who also cover neighbouring constituencies) AGM on 20th March at the YMCA on 184 Tottenham Lane in Crouch End. There will be a discussion about the land sales at the Whittington Hospital.

Raising the flag at Hendon Town Hall

Thought I would share some pictures of me helping the custodians at Hendon Town Hall raise the newly dry cleaned Union Jack and Borough flag. Apparently the Borough Flag (only flown on select days) has to be 6 inches lower than he Union Jack. Quite right.

Plenty of work needed on Thomas Moore Estate

The Thomas Moore estate off the East End Road is a nice quiet estate, very pleasant to live in for the most part. There are a number of outstanding issues I have picked up there though, which I find alarming. I am particularly concerned by the state of brickwork. I know a lot has already been done, but all the outside walls look lkike this.

I was not happy to hear of a drain that keeps making noise that constantly disturbs residents. There are problems with the lamposts as well. The greens are uneven and have dips, and are overly muddy and worn. Whilst I do not have the best of relationships with the estate managers, Viridian, We are looking to get themk to come down and do a site visit with us to make sure they are aware of these issues and will respond to them.

Walksafe crossings

I am glad to be able to report that the new crossing on Creighton Avenue will be ready by the end of the month. This is good news, as the one on Church Lane is already up and running. I will be asking officers to improve signage in the area as well.

Our Defence against Capita

I have been trying to find out about whether the Council have a plan B in thier back pockets for if One Barnet collapses. So far officers have said they are confident the judicial review will be unsuccessful and there is no need for any back up plans. I cannot believe the assurance officers or the section 151 officers would be negligent, so I reckon there is a draft plan tucked away in a drawer somewhere.

It would make for interesting reading, especially for what they have planned if Capita decide to sue for loss of earnings. They are unlikely to be charitable given the spirited defence we have put up.

Friday, 8 March 2013

New Crossing built in Church Lane

I was glad to see the work had finished on the new crossing on Church Lane, at the junction with East End Road. It's areal testament to how brilliant the walksafe N2 campaign have been. The ultimate compliment is that in Muswell Hill there is a similar group called Walksafe N10!

Unfortunately, when I went to inspect the crossing yesterday I was nearly run over by some moron in  a van, who thought it would be sensible to swerve quickly, and enter the two way section of Church Lane (as it is before the bridge) in the right hand lane. Talk about dangerous driving, you see why they need these crossings, its to prevent idiots like that from killing people.

Our office in on Church Lane, and from the window I've seen cars speed, go backwards, reverse the whole way through and do all manner of craziness.

There are still plenty of other works to be done, including implementing the 20 mph zone, the work on the junction of Church Lane and the High Road, and the completion of the crossing on Creighton Avenue, which is imminent.

Policy Forum

A lot has already been written about the Labour led Policy Forum in the Greek Cypriot Centre on Sunday. I just wanted to add a few comments.

What is very clear from the public response was that people don't like the way they are treated by the Council. They don't feel they are listened to, that they are frankly told the truth, and that the Council is incompetently led by the Tory administration.

I have sympathy for them.

I'm glad to see that people have a sense of realism. They, in the main, know we can't deliver everything people always want, and understand the budgetary constraints we will be under.

I'm also glad the Labour Party is grown up enough to hold these kind of events and talks to the public. We aren't afraid of criticism, and we aren't afraid of standing up for what we believe in.

Full Council

Tuesday saw a very busy full council meeting.

We started with an extraordinary meeting, about the shortfall in CCG funding. It's a measure of how much the Barnet Tories have their heads buried in the sand that they had no worries about millions of pounds missing. They argue it is only £9 million, which are the direct cuts to GPs, but there is another £81 million difference in the original budget. Some, but not all, has been taken back by the national commissioning board to commission strategic services.We don't know how much of this is a benefit to Barnet residents, nor do we know the full amounts.

The Tories go on about scaremongering, but I'm sure residents in Friern Barnet will remember Cllr Rawlings was accused of scaremongering over the future of Friern Barnet Library in 2010. What happened with that one?

I put down an amendment against the privatization going on in the NHS. Even I must admit the Tory response was shocking. Cllr Cornelius extolled the virtues of private health (after they had cried in indignation when Barry warned that the US system would be the one we end up with if the Tory government keep butchering the NHS) Cllr Rowan Quigley-Turner said how wonderful the private sector was, and how efficient they were. Cllr Turner knows nothing about Healthcare, judging from his comments. Sad, as he has a hospital in his ward.

The US system shows what a load of rubbish the Tories trot out. The state provided healthcare, medicaid and medicare, are CHEAPER AND MORE EFFICIENT than the private sector systems, where you have to search through your wallet for your credit card every time you need an ambulance. Their private system is inefficient because of the army of bureaucrats they need to check whether patients are covered for the "right sort of illness" etc. If that's what the Tories want, it proves they never could be trusted with the NHS.

And if privatization was so good for the NHS, why are the nations with the best national systems the ones with a public sector health provider? Work that one out.

These people are mad about the private sector. They love their bankers, but they hate the NHS. These are people who rejected making the borough a "fairtrade" borough, because they prefer free trade (!) Work that one out too while you're at it.

Then came the Budget meeting. I felt we had some good speeches, but in reality this session doesn't make decisions like a committee meeting, and is more of a set speech debate. The Tories curtailed the debate early, presumably because as usual we thrashed them, and they had no answers.

Cllr Melvin Cohen is to be the next mayor, having done so before in 2003 (which Daniel Thomas thinks is in the 90's) I wish him best of luck for his year ahead. Cllr Brian Schama, the current mayor is very friendly, and will be a hard act to follow.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

CCG "listens"

I visited Finchley Memorial Hospital in the morning to hand over the petition on cuts. I was horrified to learn that the Clinical Commissioning Group set out only 6 public chairs, even though they knew in advance there was a petition being delivered. They didn't let members of the public speak either, which is simply outrageous.

This kind of behaviour is unacceptable, you'd think the CCG were run by Barnet Council! It's typical to bill an organisation as "listening" then bar members of the public from talking.

War Memorials Meeting

This afternoon I attended a meeting of the War Memorials Trust. I am grateful to Cllr Stephen Sowerby, a Conservative from Oakleigh ward, who invited me to come.

The meeting was chaired by the Deputy Lieutenant, Martin Russell, who is simply brilliant. His abilities and enthusiasm are a real asset to the Borough.

There were some interesting discussions on a number of issues, namely maintaining war memorials in places like Chipping Barnet and Hendon. There were discussions about naming war dead as well. Apparently Finchley has consistently rejecting having names on some of our memorials, most famously the "naked lady" on Henley's Corner, a gift of Lord Rothermere to commemorate the Battle of Marne.

We also discussed a project to collect the names and information of all those Barnet fallen, and those commemorated on plaques in the borough. There were some interesting examples of what happened to some of our war heroes.

There is a special effort to catalogue Victoria Cross (the highest military award for bravery) winners, especially those cremated at Golders Green.

We discussed the plaque in East Finchley, and some of the background to the case.

I thought this was a great meeting with really inspiring individuals, who knew their stuff, were passionate about it and were extremely welcoming. God knows why they wanted me there!

Budget and Performance

We had yet another Budget and Performance meeting tonight. Here is a brief update.

First we started by looking at the Q3 Performance reports. There were a variety of questions relating to One Barnet figures, the at risk savings and agency and consultant costs. These sessions are rarely productive, especially as the figures are out of date, but it's worth catching up with the figures. I was glad to hear that the system for administering the new Council Tax support scheme (replacing Council Tax Benefit) will be running from our current Revs and Bens department. It had been due to be set up and handed over to Crapita on April Fools day, and the delay in the NSCSO due to the judicial review may have threatened the administration of the service.

Cllr Alan Schneiderman called a vote on whether to scrap One Barnet and consider an in house option. Needless to say it didn't have the required votes. Alan also noted that the Council had managed an overspend in Environment because of a reduced problem of wasps. I noted that Barnet was losing the wasps as well as the Bees!

We scrutinised the adoption service, which is doing well under difficult circumstances. Their figures are shown to be worse than they are because of some tough cases. It was good to see an officer who knew her brief well, and was clearly very passionate about her work.

We had the One Barnet Highlights report. More of a lowlight really, we are dealing with the smaller "wave 1" and "wave 2" projects now. The whole project is in limbo, and there is no plan B. They are simply unprepared if a judge agrees with the residents of the Borough, and rejects the contracts. I moved a motion asking Cabinet to delay the One Barnet contracts until a proper in house bid could be assessed, but that failed. It's rather difficult to scrutinize a project as uncertain of its future as One Barnet is. They keep insisting the JR will be unsuccessful, but are clearly extremely worried about it.

We also had an interesting report on CCTV cameras. There is be a much needed investment, they will look at where they are sited, which is important to me, as I feel they need to locate one in Strawberry Vale to combat the anti-social behaviour that goes on there sometimes. I also asked if they planned to have recording devices to catch noise disturbances, or as Cllr Barry Rawlings pointed out, Race hate crimes as well. Cllr David Longstaff said thismight be considered a bit big brotherish, which I agreed with. I am glad to hear they are replacing the cameras and putting in new modern monitors in the control centre, which are desperately needed. The service has been badly neglected in the 11 years of Tory administration, and they haven't invested enough to keep it at its best. Must add some good questions from Cllr Reuben Thompstone, who clearly knew his stuff on the technological side!

The chair, Cllr Anthony Finn made the point of what you do when you record someone hitting someone in the street on the CCTV, to which Barry, quick as a flash, said "you let them sit in your group room allegedly!" which had everyone in stitches.

I'm glad to see the Tories are reading my blog, because after the meeting closed Cllr Finn made an aside of how well he had chaired the meeting, presumably in response to my criticisms last time. I'm glad he has taken them on board, he was much fairer today. There will always be lots of banter, but I thought the meeting was in good spirit tonight, and because of it Councillors from both party were backing each other up and following up on each other. Even when there is banter, it's what you get out of the sessions that's important. The adoption and CCTV sessions I thought were particularly fruitful.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Sylvester Road

A resident has spoken to me about making Sylvester Road in East Finchley a One Way street. I have referred the matter to officers, but if you have a view, let me know at and I can forward them to officers.

East Finchley Community Festival - Can you help?

If you are free from 12-6 on Sunday 23rd June 2013, the best use of your time is in coming to the East Finchley Community festival in Cherry Tree Woods. If you are free to help out selling raffles on a stall or to do any stewarding for a session, please email me at and let me know!

East Finchley Writers

Are you a budding writer in East Finchley? If so why not meet up with East Finchley Writers? They are a long established local writing group, friendly and open to all. They meet every Wednesday at 6.30 at the Old White Lion (usually the round table on the far left, or ask bar staff). For more details go to  or call Carola on 020 8883 5808.